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SC Lottery: $2 and a prayer

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

John Davis, a single father of two, had $6 in his bank account and was a hair’s breadth away from losing his home when he won $200,000 playing the lottery last week.

The win, which amounts to $136,000 after taxes, will allow him to keep his home in Ricefields, pay off his credit card bills and start college funds for his daughters, Nicole, 15, and Kelsey, 3.

“My bank account looks pretty good right now,” Davis, 44, said with a grin and more than a little awe a day after picking up his winnings from the lottery claims office in Charleston.

The day before, he was wondering how he was going to afford diapers for his little girl.

His change in circumstances was just “starting to sink in.”

“I’m overwhelmed,” he said. “The last three or four years have been really, really rough and it’s kind of hard to handle happiness. I’m just not used to good things happening.”

Davis, who is a mechanic at Tidelands Ford Lincoln, incurred significant legal expenses from a divorce in 2006 and, later, a custody battle over his youngest daughter.

In 2008, he was also left with $13,000 in funeral expenses after his ex-wife died.

He would have lost his house then if Bank of America, which holds the mortgage, hadn’t been willing to work with him.

“They’ve been kind enough to let me stay in their house until I got back on my feet,” he said. “A lot of people bash Bank of America, but honestly if it had been any other bank, I would have been out of the house in 2008. When I had a hardship, they were right there for me.”

Foreclosure proceedings were put off because of the poor housing market.

A buyer couldn’t be found for the house, so Davis and his family were allowed to remain in residence and the bank got the benefit of having someone to maintain the house.

Foreclosure proceedings were supposed to start last Tuesday, but snow and ice that blanketed the area last Monday led to a postponement of the court date.

When Davis bought his winning ticket that night, it was literally the answer to a prayer.

Davis attends Pawleys Island Community Church and said he had asked God for some help the previous Sunday.

Davis has been playing the lottery for years, starting when he lived in Massachusetts. He has played the South Carolina Education Lottery since it started in 2002.

He bought his winning ticket, a $2 Palmetto Cash 5 ticket, at a Scotchman in Garden City and said he has Kelsey to thank for it. He had just picked her up at pre-school and she was hungry — a surprise since getting her to eat is usually a trial.

“She was craving chicken nuggets and fries, so I just ran into the store real quick,” Davis said.

Kelsey had him distracted, so he passed the convenience store he usually stops at and went to the Scotchman, which he’d never gone to before.

Then, because he was in a hurry, he got a quick pick ticket instead of choosing his own numbers.

“I normally pick birthdays,” he said.

He checked the winning numbers at work the next morning. He has an agreement with a colleague that if one of them wins the Mega Millions, they’ll pay off the other’s mortgage, and Davis joked about needing to see if he had to go pick up his money.

“I checked Mega Millions and there was nothing,” he said. “Then I checked Cash 5 and I had the first number, and then the second number. I saw the fourth number and I was like, ‘Oh, my God.’ When I saw the fifth number, I about fainted.”

After picking up his winnings that morning and heading back to work to finish up a few jobs, he picked up his kids and they celebrated with dinner at California Dreaming in Surfside Beach.

His oldest daughter has been “really calm” about it all, he said.

“The little one has no idea what’s going on. She just knows she got a new Mickey Mouse movie last night at Best Buy.”

The chances of winning at Palmetto Cash 5 are one in 501,942, according to Holli Armstrong, a spokesperson for the S.C. Education Lottery.

“It’s all random, but lately we have had a lot of winners all over the state,” she said.

Just over 60 percent of every dollar spent on the lottery is paid out in prizes.

Davis said he’ll keep playing the lottery. He bought another ticket the same day he picked up his winnings.

“I’ve heard of multi-winners, so I’m going to try to be one of those,” he said.

But he won’t buy multiple tickets anymore.

“In my opinion, one chance is as good as multiples,” he said. “I think if you’re going to win, you’re chosen to win.”

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